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AmeriServ Sells Nursing Home

AmeriServ Financial (ASRV - Get Report) completed the sale of a building that housed a troubled Pittsburgh-area nursing center, wiping $4 million in nonperforming loans from its books.

The Johnstown, Pa., company said the former Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center will soon be returned to the community as a children, youth and family services center. AmeriServ Financial agreed to sell the facility to the Bradley Center, a social services provider, in July. Terms weren't disclosed.

On Thursday, AmeriServ rose 2 cents to $5.18.

AmeriServ acquired the 170-bed Ronald Reagan center in Robinson Township, Allegheny County, for $2.94 million in January through a sheriff's sale. It foreclosed on the property Oct. 20, 2003, after the home failed to pay off a $5.2 million commercial mortgage -- the original $4.8 million loan plus interest, the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat reported.

The center has had a troubled history. Late last year, the state health department turned over Atrium's operation to a temporary manager and directed that its residents be relocated. That decision came some two years after an Alzheimer's patient died at Atrium after being locked outside in the cold.

This week, the head of the nursing home was indicted on federal fraud charges. The indictment, by a Pittsburgh federal grand jury, also charged Atrium with health care fraud and false statements relating to health care matters.

The fraud charges come on top of charges filed by Allegheny County prosecutors stemming from the Oct. 26, 2001, death of Mabel Taylor. Taylor, 88, died after she was locked out of the facility in 40-degree temperatures, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Federal prosecutors claim the nursing home defrauded Medicare and Medicaid from 1999 to 2003 by forging records and inflating the care they gave the home's residents, most of whom had Alzheimer's disease. The indictment says the center altered nurses' records to hide bruises and sores, forged doctors' signatures on medical records and altered doctors' orders for laboratory work and medications.

"We were aware of our obligation to respect the importance of the facility to the people of Allegheny County," said AmeriServ financial chief Gary McKeown. "It is our hope that with this completed sale, everyone involved can be satisfied that something positive has now come from a bad situation."

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